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Study Guide: Knocking Over the Bear

Sunday April 21, 2002 | Greg Boyd

Focus Scripture:


Brief Summary:

In today’s sermon, Greg began with a review of last week’s message about the goal of creation, a biblical definition of love, and the three movements that God’s love makes.


Extended Summary:

In today’s sermon, Greg began with a review of last week’s message about the goal of creation, a biblical definition of love, and the three movements that God’s love makes. We were reminded that love is the “deal breaker.” Recall the carnival analogy from the sermon of knocking over the right bear to win all the stuffed animals. If you knock over the bear, you get all the other animals as well. If you miss the bear, you don’t win anything. If we love in a Christ-like manner, all the other ways we are to behave as Christians will naturally follow. Without love, we cannot do anything else that is pleasing to God.

Today we will reflect on this aspect of love as revealed in Scripture as well as the importance our loving has for the reputation of the Church and God’s witness in the world. We are ambassadors of Christ; we represent God here on earth (2 Corinthians 5:20, Ephesians 6:20). If we do not have love we cannot represent God to others, for God is love (1 John 4:8). Our duty is the same regardless of whom we encounter, for God’s love knows no partiality. Just as the sun shines and the rain falls upon both the faithful and the unfaithful, God’s love is for all and draws all (Matt. 5:43-45, John 3:16, 2 Peter 3:9). So must our love be for others, for it is God’s love that is in us and moves through us. This love that shows no partiality, no conditions, is the distinguishing mark of the Christian. The world will know that God is true and that love is real (and for them!) if we love one another in this way. The world needs the love of God, the mercy of God, the grace of God. If we don’t extend this to them, then we fail in our task as ambassadors of Christ with the message from the King that they are forgiven and loved and that God wants them to come home.


Reflection Questions:

  1. What is the reputation that the Christian Church has in the world today? List five characteristics those outside the church might identify.
  2. Read 1 John 3:11-4:21. What stands out to you about the sort of love described in this passage? How will this love affect your daily life? Does love need to be “balanced” by something else—can we love too much?
  3. How would you respond to these objections: “Isn’t this call to love impossible? How can we always feel loving towards each other? I don’t even know where to begin!” Reflect on the following passages as you prepare a response: Matt. 10:8, Luke 6:28-37, Romans 12:21.
  4. What should the Church’s reputation be? List five ways this could be identified.

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